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Trinitarian Worship, Part 2

by the Reverend Berten Waggoner M.Div.


In Part 1 of “Trinitarian Worship” The Reverend Berten Waggoner showed the importance of the Trinity quoting from sources as diverse as John Calvin, Percy Bysche Shelley, Colin Gunton and Karl Rahner. And he showed that the erosion of the focus of the Trinity in worship is not only the responsibility of theologians but also of worship leaders. Here he continues . . .

Several things could be done, but in my judgment, the most important thing a worship leader can do is to become a prayerfully and thoughtfully informed Trinitarian. Through disciplined study and reflection he/she should come to a point of conviction in terms of a model (doctrine) of the trinity. The purpose of a Trinitarian model is to help us worship. As Miroslav Volf states, “A ...doctrine of the Trinity is a model acquired from salvation history and formulated in analogy to our experience, a model with which we seek to approach the mystery of the triune God, not in order to comprehend God completely, but rather in order to worship God as the unfathomable...” (After Our Likeness, p.198). If this is true, then one of the most important things a worship leader must do is to define a Trinitarian model in his mind.

Several models have been proposed in the flow of church history. I do not have time to either introduce or evaluate the multiplicity of models. Some such as Arianism were clearly destructive to our faith as they denied the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Others such as Modalism were rejected because they failed to recognize the diversity of persons in the godhead.

The model I would like to recommend for your study is called the doctrine of perichoresis. This term means mutual indwelling or better, mutual interpenetration and refer to the understanding of both the Trinity and Christology. In the divine perichoresis, each person has “being in each other without coalescence” (John of Damascus ca. 650). The roots of this doctrine are long and deep. Recent Evangelicals that have worked at clearly defining the model include such notables as Millard Erickson, Royce Gordon Gruenler, Gilbert Bilezikian and Miroslav Volf.

Perichoresis is seen most clearly in the passages in John where Jesus speaks of his relationship with the Father:

“But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father."  (John 10:38);

“Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.  (John 14:9-11);

“...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  (John 17:21)

In no other place in the teachings of Jesus are we provided with this clear of a window into the divine relationships. The picture Jesus gives us here is that of an eternal community (at this stage of two persons), totally dwelling in one another, totally interpenetrating the other so much so that when one speaks it can be said that both speak. The Son totally dwells in the Father, and the Father totally dwells in the Son. We do not have a human analogy to this type of divine perichoresis because one human cannot indwell another. The closest we can come to this reality is human empathy.

Berten "Bert" Waggoner is a teacher, pastor, and national director of Vineyard, USA. To learn more about Vineyard, USA please visit
 http://www.vineyardusa.org/site/.